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While cinephiles await the next James Bond film, AMC introduces its own sexy and stylish spy project, The Night Manager, a miniseries based on espionage novelist John Le Carre’s thriller of the same name.
The elegant adaptation stars Tom Hiddleston as Jonathan Pine, a war veteran whose life as a luxury hotel night manager is upset when he’s asked to infiltrate the glamorous but insular world of billionaire arms dealer Richard Roper, played by Hugh Laurie. Rounding out the cast are Olivia Colman, Tom Hollander, Elizabeth Debicki, Tobias Menzies and David Harewood.
The Hollywood Reporter spoke with the series’ stars and director Susanne Bier for insight into the lush, globe-trotting adventure. Below is a guide to navigating the posh but perilous world of AMC’s The Night Manager.
The Disenchanted Soldier-Turned-Spy
Following a personal tragedy, Jonathan Pine (Hiddleston) is ripe for recruitment when intelligence operative Angela Burr (Colman) offers him a chance to take down Richard Roper (Laurie).
“Pine had obviously been someone as a soldier who is easy with the anonymity of uniform,” Hiddleston tells THR. “He is comfortable with following orders, he works well within a set of rules and formality, he has an impeccable sense of duty and polish, which is a skill set that’s easily transferred into his job as a night manager. He’s almost like a lost soul, searching for a cause. What happens lights a flame within him that gives him a destination, it gives him a cause, it gives him a purpose, and he is someone who has the courage to follow through.”
The Charming Villain
Roper may present the persona of a wealthy philanthropist but is actually a dangerous and powerful arms dealer with a loyal group of followers. Burr refers to him as “the worst man in the world,” which Laurie describes as “quite a big ask” to play. “There are many competitors for that title,” the actor notes. “But it’s a strange thing about life, isn’t it? We sort of perceive the older characters generally, we perceive them to be compromised in some way, embittered, wicked somehow. Simply the act of getting older is a wicked thing. So I embraced it. I loved the character, I loved the opportunity.”
Debicki, who plays Roper’s girlfriend Jed, adds, “It’s one of the most simple forms of evil really: supplying something that directly affects innocent people. There’s that fantastic line in our show: ‘War is a spectator sport,’ That’s his trade.”
The Tenacious Operative
Despite doubts, setbacks, threats and betrayal, Burr will not give up until Roper has been trounced, even if that means putting Pine in harm’s way. Oh, and she also happens to be very, very pregnant.
“I think she’s so tunnel-visioned, she can’t afford to really think of herself,” Colman says of Burr. “You’ll eventually [find out] in the episode why she hates Roper as much as she does. It suddenly all becomes clear, and you go, ‘Oh, my God. You’ve got to totally do whatever it takes.’ She’d never put her unborn child in danger, but I don’t think she can really afford to think about it too much. She’s got to get this job done.”
The Alluring Companion
Jed is Roper’s girlfriend from America who only seems to lounge around looking lithe and lovely, which intrigues interloper Pine, who appears to be drawn to ladies in treacherous situations. Naturally, she harbors her own secret that makes her relationship with Roper complicated.
“In Roper, she sees escape from a life that is not going the way she had hoped,” Debicki says. “Perhaps she’s convinced herself that she loves him, but I think that when you see Richard Roper … you completely understand why she would. He’s so charming, he’s charismatic, he’s funny, he’s smart, he protects her. She lives in willful ignorance because if she was to sit down and ask him and he was to divulge the reality of his situation, she knows it’s morally ambiguous … but I don’t think that she knows the specifics that he is an arms dealer. It’s Jonathan Pine that really tips her over into this completely dismantled place.”
The Suspicious Supporter
Roper’s chief of staff, Major Corkoran, aka “Corky” (Hollander), appears to be the only one who senses that Pine may have an ulterior motive in helping Roper.
“Corky plays a character who is sort of been demonized by his physical being,” Bier says of Hollander’s character. “He’s got longing and he’s got affections and he doesn’t really fit into the world. That makes him incredibly sensitive to everything that is going on. He is constantly suspicious of Pine and he’s constantly the biggest danger to Pine’s mission. And we know he’s a real villain, but he’s also someone who is irresistible to be around.”
The Exotic Locales
The miniseries takes place in London, Cairo, Switzerland, the Middle East and Mallorca, the latter of which acts as almost a miniature nation and base of operations for Roper. “It really highlights the extraordinary life that Roper can afford to lead,” Colman says about the globe-trotting adventures. “I think as a viewer as well, that escapism, that sort of little view into a world that most of us never see and then it’s quite shocking when you realize, ‘Oh God, how he got there. And I’m slightly disappointed in myself for liking it so much.'”
As a film director, Bier made sure to shoot The Night Manager to feel as cinematic as possible. “Jonathan Pine is an agent sent into this lavish world of Richard Roper. The whole thing is about, we wonder if he’s going to be seduced by it or whether he’s going to stay true to his initial mission,” she explains. “For that moral dilemma to actually play, the world needs to be very seductive, the world needs to be very lavish. You need the visual storytelling in order to understand the story.”
The James Bond Factor
Roper’s lush lifestyle of bespoke suits, private jets and high-tech toys eventually leads to a scene where Pine enters a casino and orders a vodka martini. The parallels to the James Bond iconography has even caused fans who’ve already seen the miniseries internationally to call the effort Hiddleston’s 007 audition.
But Bier denies any link to the famous spy. “It’s coincidence,” she says. “A casino is part of that world. Drinking drinks is part of that world. Once you deal with the world of spies and it’s British, it’s inevitable that you touch upon similar ground.”
The Night Manager premieres Tuesday at 10 p.m. ET/PT on AMC.
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